My first blog ‘Keeping It Together’ came to a natural end when I moved in to my studio. ‘Keeping It Going’ picks up where that left off. Will I be able to maintain a blog at the same time as being creative in the studio? Will it help or hinder my practice as an artist?

www.katemurdochartist.com

Follow me on Twitter: @katemurdochart

August 2016: See also my new blog, ‘Keeping It Moving’

https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/keeping-it-moving


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‘No Place Like Home’  – as part of the ‘New Narratives’ show at hARTslane New Cross Gate, London

I can never take it for granted, but each time I’ve presented a new piece of work which depends on people participating, they’ve done so in positive and thoughtful ways. ‘No Place Like Home’ is a case in point.

I asked people to respond to a ‘tower block’, uninhabited and stuffed full of fake money, representative of the many that have started to saturate areas like New Cross and Deptford. I invited people to take away the money and bring back something in exchange. The aim was to make this tower block a real home; strip it of its financial assets and transform it into an object of beauty, with heart and soul at its core. I hoped that people would fill it with things that they felt make a home a real home, rather than it being yet another investment unit.

Sure enough, by the time the exhibition was over, plenty of fake money had been taken and more than enough objects had been left behind to transform the tower block into something more homely.

Many of those visiting the show at hARTslane told me the stories associated with the objects they left behind. Their stories added to the feeling of creating homes as real homes; objects and the conversations around them put the humanity back, transforming the soulless cash cubicles into places of warmth, with heart, soul and conversations at their core. It was interesting to hear a fellow artist at the artists’ talk, speak about the cubicles of the CD rack as ‘rooms – giving us insight into the lives of those who resided in them.’

Pets clearly had strong associations with home, as several items such as photos of dogs and cats as well as dog toys, bones and cat biscuits were left behind. And there was an emotional parting with a collar which had belonged to a recently deceased beloved pet dog. Other objects left in the tower block spoke for themselves: there was an emphasis on home as a place of peace, rest and respite in the things that were left: food items, candles, beautiful fabrics, plants & flowers, herbs & spices – the aesthetic, comforting aspects of home represented in them. There were also items making references to children, filling the homes with love and laughter, hope and optimism, as one person told me.

At the end of the day, what is left becomes less important than why something is left; the collective aim to change something is what matters most.

‘New Narratives’ was a real joy to be a part of; hARTslane’s premise behind the subject ‘Dear London’ resonates with me and the ever increasing lack of affordable social housing is a subject I care passionately about. There was a sense of compassion and humanity amid the artists, designers and architects involved in the show, all of them acutely aware of current social problems and all doing their best, not simply for themselves, but for the local area and its residents. I learned a lot about creative activities going on in my close neighbourhood during the course of the show – secret, hidden hubs of creativity – all doing remarkable work for the benefit of communities at large.


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‘New Narratives’ is the latest show to open at hARTslane, New Cross, London and the exhibition is a part of the hARTslane collective’s ‘Dear London’ project. Given my personal interest in the decline of affordable social housing, I was especially pleased to be asked to participate.

‘New Narratives’ is a group show which includes the work of artists, designers and architects. I felt inspired by the aims and objectives of the curators in tackling a highly pertinent social and political issue, particularly in light of the ever increasing homelessness crisis in the UK at large. A quote by architect Oliver Wainwright included in hARTslane’s press release really caught my eye:

‘Places are becoming ever meaner and more divided, as public assets are relentlessly sold off, entire council estates flattened to make room for silos of luxury safe-deposit boxes in the sky. We are replacing homes with investment units, to be sold overseas and never inhabited, substituting community for vacancy. The more we build, the more our cities are emptied, producing dead swathes of zombie town where the lights might never even be switched on.’

The issue of empty, forgotten buildings is one that stares me in the face nearly everyday en route from home to my studio in SE London. The area is becoming saturated with new-build ‘luxury living units’ and ‘high spec living quarters’ – large, imposing tower blocks developed purely for financial investment, with no consideration for the impact on local residents. Conversations among local people frequently revolve around how hemmed in they’re starting to feel, how frustrated they are about the many empty properties surrounding them and how sad they feel about the ongoing breakdown of communities – generations of families being priced out of the area.

 

I created ‘No Place Like Home’ in response to the premise of the show:

 

 

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

Take away the money and turn this tower block into a home!

‘exclusive’

‘high spec living quarters’

‘excellent rental yields’

‘the Build to Rent Revolution’ …

… these are just a few phrases taken from various magazines promoting new-build properties in the SE London area. Everything relates to money – the property’s value, rental yield, price growth prediction; there isn’t a single mention of these properties in terms of ‘home.’

Social housing has become increasingly scarce as councils and housing associations sell off their properties to private investors. Properties are left to become dilapidated and new build ‘luxury living units’ spring up in their place, many of them completely out of bounds financially to the people who have lived within tight-knit communities for generations. As they become forced out, communities become permanently damaged and eroded. It’s time to take matters into our own hands and create a new narrative around what a home should be…

This tower block, uninhabited and stuffed full of fake money, is representative of the many that have started to saturate our local area. They’re sterile, soulless and are invariably left empty, seen by their absentee owners as nothing more than investment opportunities to increase their wealth. And even if any attempt is made to rent them, very few are able to afford the extortionate rents requested.

In order to put back some of the warmth and humanity that existed before the bulldozers waded in, I’m asking you to take away the money and bring back something in exchange; make this tower block a real homestrip it of its financial assets and transform it into an object of beauty, with heart and soul at its core; fill it with love, warmth, messages of hope, photographs, flowers – anything that represents what you think makes a home a real home, rather than yet another investment unit.

You’re welcome to leave your items and take some of the money away whenever you like. Or if you prefer, you can make your exchange on Wednesday March 21st when there will be an artists talk at hARTslane from 6-9pm.

Kate Murdoch, March 2018

www.katemurdochartist.com

 

 

NEW NARRATIVES

PV | Thursday 8th of March , 6-9pm
Exhibition Open | 9-18 March 2018, Friday-Sunday, 2-6pm
Artists talk & performance | Wednesday 21st of March, 6-9pm

PARTICIPATING ARTISTS
Rachael Bowyer | Kevin Brennan | Cedric Christie, Benedict Philpott, Byony Bridge (flute) & Peter Paul Nash | Guy Forrester & Sven Mündner | Nayan Kulkarni | Maria Lothe | Pat Meagher | Louise Melchior, Carolyn Clewer, Tiphaine de Lussy | Kate Murdoch | Marta Nowicka & Voytek Ketz | Ethan Pettit | Fred Rigby | Margit Sbicca Mulder | Sigrun Sverrisdottir
Lucy Tauber | Jonathan Tuckey | Anna Versteeg & Naomi Shaw

As part of ROOM 6.3 / Dear London (November 2017-May 2018), hARTslane is presenting New Narratives, where we celebrate the empty, forgotten buildings in London and imagine a new use for them, a new relation between people and space, where humanity is at heart.
The show brings together architects, designers and artists who are invited to present projects and ideas where empty unusual spaces are reconfigured and used for social rather than economic benefit.


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30 pieces of silver

 

It’s now a week since the opening night of ‘In The Future’ at the Collyer Bristow Gallery in Holborn, London. The show’s title was taken from a David Byrne song of the same name and I was asked to respond to a line from it:

In the future all material items will be free.’

The show’s curator, Rosalind Davis, also informed me that it was the Gallery’s silver anniversary. Being aware of interactive events I’ve created in the past, when I’ve either given away small objects or put them up for exchange, Rosalind asked me if I might be able to come up with an idea to acknowledge Collyer Bristow’s amazing 25 year run of supporting artists.

 

My thoughts quickly turned to what I’d be happy to give away for free, as well as how to introduce the silver theme. The 30 pieces of silver associated with the Biblical story of Judas Iscariot came to mind pretty quickly and is how I came to present 30 silver objects, laid out on a silver salver.

 

On the opening night, I asked actor James Haslam to give them away by approaching people who were there and asking them to choose one. I referred to the 30 objects as ‘silver’ right from the start – but of course (as I’m sure most people suspected) they weren’t real silver. They were actually a mixture of 50p items from charity shops, Christmas cracker prizes & other bits and pieces I’ve gathered over the years – some sprayed with silver paint, all looking like silver and masquerading as the real thing. But there was a twist …

 

The original 30 pieces of silver before being given away, February 2018

 

The theme of value and worth is very much at the core of my work, and the idea behind ’30 pieces of silver’ was to explore that concept in a real life situation. I therefore used part of the budget I was given to buy an actual, genuine piece of silver. It was an antique 1815 hallmarked vinaigrette (a sort of miniature pomander, which used to be filled with smelling salts or perfume, so that it could be brought out and sniffed when confronted with foul odours).

 

It excited me to see it nestled amongst the other items on the salver, unidentifiable to the untrained eye as something ‘worth’ infinitely more than any of the other 29 objects. Would people recognise it for what it was? Would it be the first item chosen? And if so, would it be because of its monetary value, rather than its aesthetic or emotional appeal? Or would it be taken by someone who had no idea of its value and simply liked the look of it?

 

After all, is a real piece of silver ‘worth’ any more than a small sparkly deer, a 1998 Esso football coin or a spray painted pig? And is it inevitable that when people find out that they could have taken a genuine ‘valuable’ piece of silver, they will regret choosing the item they did? Will the silver pig, once it’s identified as mere plastic sprayed in silver paint, appeal less when it becomes clear it’s not real silver? Or will the person who selected it still be happy, as they took the object that was worth most to them in terms of aesthetic appeal?

 

These are just some of the many questions I’ve been wondering about since last Thursday evening. I have yet to discover who took the antique vinaigrette box and why – but I do know that it wasn’t the first item to go, and neither was it the last. If you were the person who chose it, I’d love to hear from you. And I’d also love to hear from anyone else who took one of the objects. Was there a reason for taking the thing that you took? Do you now wish you’d taken the vinaigrette box? Do get in touch!

 

The genuine piece of antique hallmarked silver, a vinaigrette dated 1815, February 2018

 

In the meantime, I’d like to thank everyone who participated in the event – especially those of you who have already been in touch with your stories and photos of the objects in their new homes! And I’d especially like to thank James Haslam who distributed the silver so beautifully – a pretty challenging mission considering that there were over 400 visitors attending the opening night.

 

And of course, last but by no means least, a very special thank you must go to both Rosalind Davis and all those involved in the Collyer Bristow Gallery itself. Rosalind has created and curated an excellent exhibition in ‘In The Future’ and I’m delighted to be given the opportunity to show my work alongside a group of hugely talented artists. In addition, the fantastic financial support of the Collyer Bristow Gallery enabled me to create a completely new piece of work and I’m very grateful to them for this. As many of us know, it’s so often lack of funding that prevents us from being able to realise particular pieces of work – and indeed, in the long term, reach our full potential as artists, even. I’m  grateful to the Gallery for their financial support, as well as for being so accommodating in helping the ’30 pieces of silver’ performance go ahead on the opening night. It feels sweetly ironic that, through creating a piece of work which essentially explores the concept of value and worth, I should find myself working with a curator and a Gallery who both clearly have the interest of artists at heart and demonstrate through the work they do, how much they truly value them.

 

‘In The Future’ continues at the Collyer Bristow Gallery until mid June. Twenty artists were invited to be in the exhibition and it’s a great line-up with some very interesting, diverse work on show. All details re the best times to visit are in the link below, followed by a link to the press release and information on all the artists involved in the show.

https://www.collyerbristow.com/item/2165-in-the-future

http://collyerbristow.newsweaver.com/InthefuturePrivateView-1i74ewqs6pc/jjdhn56yt5r


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Thoughts are returning to ‘The Museum of Object Research’ and my commitment to creating more assemblage pieces for the ‘Nana’s Colours’  body of work.  I’m currently re-examining what’s already there, in the archive and making decisions about what stays/what goes, what can be improved, be better photographed, etc.

The two objects above are definite ‘keepers’, symbolic of the quieter, more subtle colour palette present in my late Nana’s life. They are also very clear indicators of a recurrent theme in my work around issues of value and worth. Both these objects are respectively worn out and broken – of little or no use and of no monetary value. It’s almost impossible however, to put a price on what they mean to me, emotionally.

This is what I wrote about the individual items and the memories they evoked in my original proposal to the Museum:

The knife: completely worn with use, a poignant reminder of the times I spent chatting to my Nana at the kitchen sink, as she peeled huge piles of vegetables in preparation for family dinners.

The broken comb: representing not just the incredibly strict ‘waste not, want not’ mantra by which my Nana lived her life, but a symbol of another aspect of her personality – snatched moments, away from relentless domesticity, focusing on herself. Vitapoint combed through her honey blonde hair, curls carefully caught up in a hairnet – in private, of course – for bedtime only; intimate, shared moments.

 

 

‘All that is left …’  is a recent piece of work which was inspired once again by my Nana’s ‘waste not, want not’ ethos. Slithers of soap would be crushed one on top of the other to create a ‘new’ more substantial. useable bar of soap.

 

Though I haven’t (by choice) been ‘keeping it going’ in terms of maintaining this blog in recent months, the sifting and sorting through one hundred plus boxes, stored away in a friend’s garage, continues to be a large part of my working process.

On the whole, it’s been an exciting few months – unearthing some great, forgotten finds amid the boxes. But it feels important to also acknowledge just how emotionally demanding it can be. Life, after all, isn’t (and by no means, has been) a bed of roses and there are plenty of reminders of that in the midst of the memorabilia – photos of huge sentimental value, letters from past loved ones, notifications of death – shattered dreams, broken promises, broken hearts.

I still have moments of feeling completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff; fret and feel guilty about just how much storage space is required, question why I even HAVE all this stuff – and so on and so on. But while my friend is happy to allow me the spare storage space and while I have the incentive to keep going back, digging & delving through a lifetime’s collection, I will continue with my commitment to keeping it going – sharing random images along the way and bearing in mind that it is after all, through the sorting process, that the work so often gets made.


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